Cyprus Mail

Two teacher unions announce work to rule on eve of new term

Two teacher unions, Oelmek and Oltelk, on Sunday released a list of the measures they would take in protest against the cabinet’s recent decision to streamline education that has caused a crisis in education and remains unresolved at the start of the school year on Monday.

The unions have rejected compromise proposals from the government – the latest one last Friday  – and are effectively planning a work to rule until they meet again on Wednesday to decide whether to strike. In the meantime, they are also looking at legal ways to overturn the cabinet’s July 4 decision by examining labour laws.

The cabinet had decided to hire some 160 teachers while covering gaps in teaching periods by reducing the number of exemptions teachers and union brass used to get. For instance, form teachers had their ‘free’ periods cut to one from two, and there was also a reduction in teaching periods dropped according to years of service. Under the current system, primary school teachers have their periods cut by two to 27 after 15 years, and to 25 after 21 years. They also provided that union officials would be obliged to teach and conduct union work outside school hours.

Some of the measures were slightly scaled back as a compromise but unions still rejected them.

As of Monday, teachers are back at school though classes don’t begin until later in the week.

According to the joint announcement on measures from Oelmek and Oltek, from September 3 to 6, teachers will not attend a seminar for head teachers of secondary and technical schools but will remain at school. They will also not attend seminars for inspectors, and will elect a committee at each school as a liaison with the two unions.

A vote will be held on September 5 seeking the green light to strike.

Other measures include writing a letter requesting health and safety inspections at all schools, and if they get no response, to report this to the department of labour inspection to ensure all buildings are fit for use.

Another is that teachers would not collect, count or distribute books but to have someone else do that job, and they will also refuse to read out any messages from the education minister, or meet any officials.

In other words, they plan not to carry out any task other than classroom teaching, no school exchange visits or extra-curricular school competitions, conferences, workshops, European programmes or any voluntary activities.

The unions also decided to limit school celebrations to what is “absolutely necessary” and will see parents only in the mornings, and will not engage in training or drafting action plans.

“We assume that all colleagues will follow the unanimous measures, and they will receive the legal support and coverage from Oelmek and Oltek,” the joint statement said.  “With unity and determination, we will defend our dignity.”


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